The key to addressing summer-time frustrations — traffic chief among them —could lie in hiring seasonal officers to augment the year-round police force, several candidates for City Council said during a Monday night candidates' forum.
But candidate John McCarthy, a long-time Gloucester police officer and former interim chief, said the dual requirements of winning approval from the state Legislature and then the union representing Gloucester officers could be difficult and time-consuming.
Councilor Melissa Cox, who is seeking re-election, said allowing the hiring of summer officers would address a number of public safety concerns across the city. "It's never going to get better until we have seasonal help," she said.
The topic was one of several that dominated a forum of candidates for councilor at-large sponsored by the Gloucester Daily Times and 1623 Studios.
The topic that drew the most impassioned responses from candidates was growth in the city and its implications for traffic and affordable housing. Several candidates used the phrase "We've been discovered."
Councilor James O'Hara, seeking re-election, said the fact that "Gloucester has been discovered...is a double-edged sword...everyone wants a place to live, but they don't want the traffic that comes with it." He said one way the city could help keep Gloucester affordable is to run tight budgets that limit taxes.
As for traffic, candidate Christopher DiMercurio-Sicuranza said an important tool for fighting traffic would be to make Gloucester a "smart city" with meters and other tools that encouraged motorists to behave in desirable ways.
On other topics:
• Candidates agreed that the city should do what it can locally to address the impact of climate change. Candidate Joseph Ciolino said developers should be steered away from building in areas newly prone to flooding.
• Most of the candidates said they supported a merger of East Gloucester and Veterans Memorial elementary schools but think it's proper that voters have their say on the necessary borrowing.
• Candidates generally agreed that Dogtown should remain under local control rather than any federal involvement that would come with allowing it to be designated a historic site. Several councilors said Dogtown should be kept a secret to the extent possible. Noting that Gloucester's beaches draw throngs of visitors, O'Hara said: "Not to be rude or impolite, but is there something we can have as citizens of Gloucester and not have people (running) over our beauty?"
• Cox and McCarthy said it's unlikely Gloucester will have a new, combined police station and Fire Department headquarters building in the foreseeable future.